James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘USAspending.gov’

Election ads to be even more obnoxious in 2010

Posted by James McPherson on January 21, 2010

Scott Brown’s election to the Senate, while interesting, isn’t the event this week that will have the biggest effect on the future of the American political process. A much more important (and activist, considering the overturning of legal precedent without corresponding new facts) decision is the one today by the Supreme Court to ban corporate spending limits on political speech, killing the McCain-Feingold act in the process.

McCain, still confused over whether as a Republican he’s supposed to be a shill for big business or a protector of the people, offered a weak criticism of the decision. The 5-4 decision (aren’t they all, anymore?) extends the conservative corporate tradition of treating corporations as if they are individuals (except with much more money and less moral guidance than most people have).

Frankly, as a near-First Amendment absolutist, I have mixed emotions about the decision from a theoretical perspective. From a practical view, however, I have little doubt that future campaigns will be even more negative and more riddled with lies and smears than past elections. An already-broken political process in which most Americans already get their political information from clearly biased pundits and paid advertising will become even worse.

With the news media flailing and perhaps less likely to have the ability to provide meaningful perspective to political events–even if they had the will to do so and more Americans had the will to pay attention–those who care about the process would be well advised to bookmark FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction.com, Open Secrets, SourceWatch.org and USAspending.gov, and plan to check them often.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

In search of Sarah, and where Congress spends your money

Posted by James McPherson on September 23, 2008

John McCain and Sarah Palin finally went too far in trying to protect the GOP’s “pretty little lady” from the media today. Faced with a rare journalistic exhibition of backbone, the campaign was forced to back down before its nominees climbed back aboard what journalists are now calling “the no-talk express.”

As far as I can tell, McCain and Palin have done only one thing to counter recent indications that they will be as secretive as Dick Cheney and George Bush. And that one positive act–which applies more to a weakening Congress than to a power-hungry executive branch, anyway–actually served more to show how out of touch Palin is with the government she hopes to help lead.

Palin drew fire for suggesting that she would provide the same kind of oversight for federal spending as she had for spending in Alaska. The criticism came not because of the idea itself, but because she was unaware that such a program already exists–thanks to a law co-sponsored by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Below you can see a video about the bill (which Palin’s buddy, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, and Democrat Robert Byrd tried to secretly block).

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 provides a searchable U.S. government database, USAspending.gov (which I’ve also linked at right under both “Journalism Resources” and “Goverment Resources”). As the Poynter Institute’s Alan Abbey points out, “This resource is a goldmine for journos, particularly local media–especially in an election year–since the data are easily searchable by congressional district.” Abbey also notes: “USAspending.gov is an offshoot of the earlier (and still ongoing) online database FedSpending.org, which crunches the data even further. FedSpending, which was chreated by the watchdog group OMB Watch, also is updated to include partial data for FY 2008.

By the way, particularly interesting in light of the past week’s economic events, is a Sept. 9 OMB Watch story about the Bush Administration’s “last minute rush to dismantle public protections.” OMB Watch executive director Gary D. Bass writes, “Events show the administration is starting to kick things into high gear on regulations, trying to lock the next administration into a Bush legacy.”

Two weeks later, considering the ineptitude and accompanying costs of the Iraq War, disaster relief and economic meltdown, we know that the “Bush legacy” goal has been achieved. At least the next two presidential administrations will be dealing with trying to clean up the Bush/Cheney mess–at least three or four administrations, if the next one is headed by the increasingly comically press-paranoid McCain and Palin.

Note that Palin still has not had even one news conference and has submitted to only two television interviews–one with Fox’s Sean Hannity, who would have not have been able to pass my junior-level reporting class by asking the kind of inane, sycophantic, leading questions he offered. The “interview” demonstrated far more about Hannity’s opinions of Obama (though nothing we didn’t already know) than we learned about Palin. You can see some of it with the second video below.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »